Still puzzling, but now in 3D.
Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask, originally known as Professor Layton and the Mask of Miracle, on 3DS marks the fifth game of the Professor Layton series in the UK. Professor Hershel Layton has captivated our imagination from the Curious Village to the Spectre’s Call with his sidekick Luke Triton investigating such things as time travel and wormholes.
Our favourite Professor of Archaeology’s journey unfolds upon arriving in a mysterious town known as Monte d’ Or. Monte d’ Or is a successful and booming place filled with wealth and riches that has expanded over the last eighteen years. It’s an expansive city that Henry Ledore had developed from nothing into a fine town that’s brimming with excitement and intrigue. After the Professor and Luke receive a letter from Angela Ledore explaining about the disasters that are occurring, they embark once again to investigate further and explore this strange but curious town.
A brief tutorial highlights the new features of the 3DS game with the professor showing you how to use the magnifying glass of the touch screen to switch into investigation mode. In the magnifying mode, the magnifying glass appears in the top screen of your 3DS and this enables you to move and navigate around the environment by sliding your stylus on the touch screen. The magnifying glass changes to a shade of orange when it detects any areas of general interest and this allows you to interact with the environment and investigate.
The game is packed full with 150 logical and lateral thinking puzzles like before and you’re given a number of picarats to solve the puzzle within to aim for a great score. If there’s one thing I’ve noticed with the Professor Layton mini games, it is that some of the puzzles are very simple, yet there are others that you will have a hard time getting your head around. One of the earlier puzzles in the Miracle Mask is to untie a clumsy clown who has accidentally got tied up in his balloon strings. Your objective is to untangle him by swapping a series of balloon strings around in less than three moves. This is one of the simpler puzzles to grasp early on in the game and it’s just a matter of moving strings around to successfully untie him. Down the line, you’re be engaged in much more difficult puzzles that will keep you guessing for ages.
The mini games feel a little more engaging this time round and, with the move from 2D to 3D environments, it’s easy to see why everything feels a little more entertaining and fulfilling. The past Professor Layton games may have been filled with great mystery, solving puzzles and that ever so annoying tapping frantically at the touch screen to either find hint coins to trying to discover the next person to chat with, but things have moved on. Sure, you’ll still need to chat to the local folk with a simple tap, but the game feels genuinely more intuitive. Gone are the days of wandering around aimlessly looking for the next hint or character to engage with. Instead we welcome the new gorgeously rendered and beautiful animation that takes us by the hand and leads us into a more immersive storyline with ease and grace.
Professor Layton and the Masked Miracle offers a totally new experience to the player without feeling it’s trying too hard to please us. Take for instance when you have to pursue a masked gentleman – you’re seated on the back of a horse as you frantically gallop along the streets trying to catch up with the gentleman in question. Using the stylus, you’re positioned in a stunning scene where you must slide the stylus in short quick movements left and right, while trying to avoid barrels that just so happen to be in your way. If you stumble over a barrel, this will slow down your progress, or you can find yourself a carrot for a burst of speed and then you’re galloping away like no-one’s business. Generally speaking I love the way this particular mini game felt, mainly because the graphics looked particularly stunning and inviting, allowing you to be completely absorbed in the experience.
The toy robot game is a good one, in which you have to guide a wind-up robot around a course to reach his goal. Touching the yellow arrows enables the robot to move around. He can only walk three steps at any given time and once he’s started moving you can’t stop him, unless he’s stopped in his tracks by a wall or block. In the meantime, an enemy mousebot has also been let loose and it’s all about trying to get to the red panel goal to win.
Aside from the general selection of puzzles to keep your brain cogs well oiled, there’s an opportunity to explore Professor Layton’s briefcase. Inside you’ll find familiar if slightly different mini games, episodes and the journal to explore. Layton’s Journal gives you a brief description of how the investigation is progressing and insight into the storyline at different stages of the game. Mysteries give you a rundown of the objects and characters you’ve encountered. Episodes enable you to watch an episode of part of the game and a glimpse into Emmy’s enquiries with the local townspeople. The game also offers downloadable daily puzzle content giving the player the experience of a new puzzle each day, which keeps it feeling fresh.
From these puzzling observations, I can strongly conclude that Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask is quite logically one of the best titles from the Layton franchise and one that I would highly recommend. Not only does the game give you an engaging insight into the weird and wonderful world of Professor Layton, his family and friends, but it has also made the smooth transition from 2D to 3D without losing any charm or playability. The animation and attention to detail in the graphics make the game enjoyable to watch and play throughout. It’s no puzzle, Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask is an essential buy for 3DS-owning puzzle fans.